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Understanding listing

In this guide

1. Introduction

Historic buildings are a precious part of our heritage. They help to create Wales’s distinctive character and contribute to our identity and sense of place. They are important to our quality of life and help us to understand our history. They also promote a positive image of Wales across the world.

Listing identifies buildings which are of special architectural or historic interest to Wales. Ranging in date from medieval buildings to those built as recently as 30 years ago, listed buildings cover many aspects of our lives from places to live and work through to places to worship and play. These nationally important buildings provide a connection with the ambitions and skills of past generations. Listing helps us to recognise all the special qualities of these buildings and protect them for the benefit of future generations.

Today’s owners and occupiers of listed buildings have an important part to play in managing our heritage. Through their care and commitment to safeguarding these precious assets, we will all be able to enjoy these buildings of special architectural or historic interest now and in the future.

Understanding Listing in Wales will help anyone who wants or needs to know why and how buildings are listed. It also explains how to ask for a building to be listed or delisted, and how to request a review of a listing decision. Understanding Listing in Wales also provides an introduction for owners, occupiers and agents about what listing mean to them.

2. What is listing?

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Although it is the responsibility of the Welsh Ministers to compile the list, in practice, we — Cadw — recommend which buildings should be listed or delisted.

 The term ‘listed building’ is wide ranging and includes not only buildings such as houses, churches or barns but also walls, milestones, bridges, telephone boxes and many other types of structure.

Changes to listed buildings are managed through listed building consent, which is part of the planning system. Listing is not a preservation order but it is intended to help manage change and protect the building, its setting and its features from unsympathetic works that could damage its special interest.

 Many buildings are of interest architecturally or historically, but for buildings to be listed, this interest must be ‘special’. The criteria for defining special interest are explained in section 3.

Although there are around 30,000 listed buildings in Wales, these make up less than one per cent of all buildings in Wales. We continue to add buildings to the list, and sometimes remove them. All listed buildings are of special architectural or historic interest but we classify them into one of three grades.

  • Grade I (one) — buildings of exceptional interest. These make up fewer than two per cent of the total number of listed buildings in Wales.
  • Grade II* (two star) — particularly important buildings of more than special interest. These make up about seven per cent of the total number of listed buildings in Wales.
  • Grade II (two) — buildings of special interest which justify every effort being made to preserve them. These make up approximately 91 per cent of the total number of listed buildings in Wales.

Regardless of their grade, all listed buildings are treated equally in the planning system. Listing recognises that a building or structure has special architectural or historic interest.

3. How are buildings chosen for listing?

We assess each building on its own merits. We take into account a number of factors when deciding whether a building has the special architectural or historic interest needed for listing.

Technical Advice Note 24: The Historic Environment sets out the criteria for listing. All buildings which meet these criteria must be listed.

The main considerations are:

Architectural interest: This includes buildings which are of interest for their architectural design, decoration and craftsmanship. It also includes important examples of particular building types and techniques; for example, buildings which display technological innovation or virtuosity, and significant plan forms.

Historic interest: This includes buildings that illustrate important aspects of Wales’s social, economic, cultural, or military history.

Close historical associations: This includes buildings which have close historical association with people or events of importance to Wales.

Group value: This includes buildings which contribute an important architectural or historic unity, or are fine examples of planning, such as squares, terraces or model villages.

 Age and rarity: All buildings built before 1700 that survive in anything like their original form are listed. Most buildings of about 1700 to 1840 are listed, though this will depend in part on how much of the original form and fabric survives. After about 1840, only buildings of definite quality and character are listed. This is because many more buildings were constructed after 1840 and much larger numbers have survived, making greater selection necessary to identify the best examples.

Our approach to listing twentieth-century buildings is to identify key examples of different building types — such as factories, schools and hospitals. These examples broadly define a standard against which we judge further proposals for additions to the list. Buildings which are less than 30 years old are normally listed only if they are of exceptional quality and under threat.

We do not take into account the condition or use of a building when considering it for listing.

Local listing can be an effective way of protecting historic buildings of special local interest which do not meet national criteria for listing but have a vital role in maintaining local character and a sense of place. Local planning authorities are able to draw up lists of historic assets of special local interest. They can also designate conservation areas because of their special architectural or historic interest, and draw up policies to enhance and preserve their character and appearance.

For more information about local listing and conservation areas, see Managing Lists of Historic Assets of Special Local Interest and Managing Conservation Areas in Wales.

4. Finding out about listed buildings

We give each listing a listed building record. These records are published in Cof Cymru — National Historic Assets of Wales.

The main purpose of the list description is to help identify the building or structure. Each list entry includes:

  • the street, name or number of the building
  • its grade
  • a reference number and the National Grid Reference
  • a brief description of the building and its history
  • the reason for listing
  • references to other information about the building and its importance.

Although a list description will mention the features which led to the listing, it may not be a complete record of all the features of importance. The amount of information in a description can vary.

It is important to remember that the absence from the list description of any feature (whether outside or inside) does not mean that it is not of interest. Nor should it be removed or altered without listed building consent. If you are in any doubt, you should ask the advice of your local planning authority.

Listing covers the entire building, both inside and outside. It also includes any object or structure fixed to the building, and any object or structure within the ‘curtilage’ of the building constructed before 1 July 1948.

For example, a farmhouse might be the building named in the list entry, but other structures such as barns or stable blocks within its curtilage may still be part of the listing.

Your local planning authority can advise you about what is covered by the listing and whether or not other structures at the address should also be treated as listed. You can find out more about curtilage in Managing Change to Listed Buildings in Wales.

Occasionally, a building or structure may be scheduled as well as listed. In such cases, scheduled monument legislation takes precedence. For more information about scheduled monuments, see Understanding Scheduling and Managing Scheduled Monuments in Wales.

5. How to request a listing

There are around 30,000 listed buildings in Wales. Buildings can still be added to the list and you can make requests to us for individual buildings to be listed.

Before submitting your request, it is a good idea to check whether the building is already listed. You can do this on Cof Cymru — National Historic Assets of Wales.

It is also a good idea to talk to your local planning authority conservation officer before contacting Cadw.

It is important that you tell us about evidence which may not have been available previously, or explain why the building’s special interest may have been overlooked.

Difficulties can arise when proposals for listing are made for buildings that are under imminent threat of alteration or demolition. These can cause delay, sometimes with serious practical and financial consequences for the developer. This means that it is better for buildings to be assessed before any planning permission has been granted for redevelopment.

You should send your request for listing to us at — explaining why the building should be added to the list and include:

  • name, address/location of the building, with postcode or map reference;
  • contact details for the owner/occupier, if known;
  • recent photos showing the building’s current appearance and special features;
  • information about the history of the building — such as the date of construction, original use and historical development, special architectural features, and any people or events associated with it. If possible, you should include written or photographic evidence to support your request and tell us what sources you have used to find out about the building;
  • reasons why you think the building may meet the criteria for listing. We will assess the information to see whether the building meets the national criteria for listing.

If we recommend it for listing, we will consult:

  • the building’s owner and occupier;
  • the relevant local planning authority;
  • any other person that we believe to have special knowledge of, or interest in, buildings of architectural or historic interest.

We will allow 28 days for the return of written responses. If the building is listed, we will tell the owner, occupier and the local planning authority.

Interim protection

 From the beginning of the consultation period, the building will receive interim protection as if it is already listed. It will be an offence to damage it or carry out works that alter its character without listed building consent.

Interim protection will last until a decision is made and we tell the owner, occupier and relevant local planning authority. We publish a list of buildings under interim protection on our website.

If the building is not listed, compensation for loss or damage caused by the interim protection may be payable. Written claims for compensation must be made within six months from the date that interim protection  ceased.

6. How to request changes

You may apply to The Planning Inspectorate for a review of the listing decision within 12 weeks of that decision on the grounds that the building is not of special architectural or historic interest. You will need to include full particulars of the case. The Planning Inspectorate will contact any interested parties who contributed to the original consultation and any other appropriate people so that they may contribute to the review. This may take the form of written representations, a hearing, or a public local inquiry.

Once The Planning Inspectorate has reached a decision, it will let the participants know its findings and we may need to amend the listing depending on the review decision.

We will review listings in the light of new evidence. If you believe that a listing should be reconsidered, you should send us the evidence, together with photographs of the building and a location plan. The evidence must relate to the special architectural or historic interest of the building.

We will investigate your evidence and may need to visit the building before we reach an initial decision. If we recommend a delisting, we will consult:

  • the building’s owner and occupier;
  • the relevant local planning authority;
  • any other person that we believe has special knowledge of, or interest in, buildings of architectural or historic interest.

We will allow 28 days for the return of written responses. We will tell the owner, occupier and local planning authority if the building is delisted. You can also make a request for the listing grade to be reconsidered by telling us why a building’s special interest has increased or decreased.

7. Building preservation notices

Local planning authorities can issue building preservation notices to protect unlisted buildings which they think are of special architectural or historic interest and are in danger of demolition or alteration that will affect their character.

The building will be protected in the same way as a building which has been listed. The notice is effective for up to six months during which time we will asses whether or not the building should be listed. If we decide that the building does meet the national criteria for listing, we will consult and the building will be kept safe through interim protection.

The local planning authority will tell the owner and occupier if we decide not to list the building and compensation for loss or damage caused by the interim protection may be payable.

8. Certificate of immunity from listing

You can apply to us for a certificate of immunity from listing, which prevents a building from being listed during the five years from the date of its issue. A local planning authority may not serve a building preservation notice during that time. A certificate of immunity provides certainty for owners and developers considering work to a particular building.

We will assess applications for certificates in a similar way to a listing proposal. This means that applications should contain the same information that is needed for a listing request. If the building does not meet the criteria for listing, we will issue a certificate of immunity. Applicants should also notify the local planning authority of the application.

9. Looking after listed buildings

Like the owner of any asset, owners of listed buildings are responsible for looking after their property. Although owners are not under any formal obligation, maintaining a listed building in good repair helps to ensure its long-term survival for future generations. Before beginning any work, it is a good idea for owners to understand what makes their listed building special so that any work can take that into account.

There is more information about maintenance and repair in Looking after your listed building.

Managing Change to Listed Buildings in Wales explains how to understand the significance of a listed building and the best way to plan and make changes to it. .

Local planning authorities also have various powers which they can use to help look after listed buildings at risk. These include the powers to carry out urgent work needed to preserve a listed building and to recover the cost from the owner. They can also issue a repairs notice. If the owner does not keep to the conditions of the repairs notice, the local authority may consider ‘compulsory purchase’ of the property. These measures are only used as a last resort as most owners are keen to look after their listed buildings and work with authorities.

You can find out more about the measures and powers to protect listed buildings in Managing Listed Buildings at Risk in Wales.

10. Making changes to listed buildings

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building, you will need to contact your local planning authority to find out if you need listed building consent.

It is a criminal offence to demolish, alter or extend a listed building in any way that affects its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest unless you have listed building consent. This means it is important to check with your local planning authority before starting any work.

You do not normally need listed building consent for like-for-like repairs, such as replacing roof slates with the same size and type of slate, but you are likely to need consent for alterations that may affect the character of the building. This may include cleaning stonework or replacing windows.

Your local planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.